The Alien franchise introduced its own type of creature with the Xenomorph, which has the potential to cause a nightmare or two, but one of the initial ideas for Alien 3 included a version of the Xenomorph that wasn’t that scary: a whippet in a costume. No, really. In 1992, David Fincher brought Alien 3, with Sigourney Weaver reprising her role as Ellen Ripley. The story is set right after the events of Aliens and follows Ripley as the only survivor of the Sulaco spaceship after the escape pod crashed on Fiorina “Fury” 161 – except an Alien organism also survived.
Alien 3 is regarded by many as the inferior entry of the original films (Alien, Aliens, and Alien Resurrection), with Fincher even disowning it. Still, Alien 3 was nominated for various awards, most of them for its visual effects. But had the production crew gone with one of their initial ideas for the Xenomorph, all those nominations probably wouldn’t have happened, although it would have been very entertaining to watch.
The Xenomorph variation in Alien 3 is the Dragon, also known as Runner Alien, Dog Alien, or Ox Alien, depending on the version you watch (its host is a dog in the theatrical cut and an ox in the DVD assembly cut). This creature needs a quadrupedal host and behaves more like those that use their mouth to attack instead of their legs. It’s not a nice image (like any other Xenomorph), but one of the crew’s ideas for it would have been a very weird one to look at: a whippet in costume. A behind-the-scenes video shows their attempts to create a running chestburster with a whippet dressed as, well, a Xenomorph. With a headpiece included, of course.
Clearly, the idea didn’t work on camera, as the dog didn’t look menacing at all even with all those extra things to make its body look like a Xenomorph, but the idea was interesting. The whippet ended up looking like what it is: a dog in a costume, so the Alien 3 crew had to explore other ideas that ultimately worked best. A Xenomorph with a similar behavior to a dog doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be played by a dog.
It’s fun to imagine what Alien 3 would have been like if the “whippet in a costume” technique had stayed, as there was an impressively detailed work on the costume, although the headpiece would have probably been an issue for both the dog and the visual effects department. The plan didn’t work but at least it will give dog owners a fun idea for next Halloween.